By Matthew Hendley
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Originally, the surgery was scheduled for that Thursday. But by the time his father arrived Monday night, doctors had grown concerned enough to put Kevin on the fast track. They announced that surgery was scheduled for Tuesday morning.
And, oh, by the way, Kevin was married.
"He was not quite in his right mind, and we were expecting that we, as his parents, would be signing the papers," Marie Franke explains. "The doctor said, 'No, his wife's already taken care of that.'"
By this point, Kevin had at least stabilized, to the point where Franke and Pratt wondered whether there had been a mix-up. "Are you married?" they asked.
"For all intents and purposes," Kevin replied.
"What does that mean?" his mother demanded.
It meant Kevin was married but too sheepish to admit it.
It was an awkward scene, to say the least. But in retrospect, perhaps the timing wasn't all that bad. "Under the circumstances we were trying to deal with, we couldn't really make too big a deal of it," Franke says. (Later, she adds, "I let loose on him.")
Indeed, at the moment, things looked bleak.
Once Kevin had stabilized, the main thing was to get the mass out, ASAP. But that would not exactly be easy: The brain is delicate, and there was so much tumor to deal with. Paralysis, loss of bodily function, and brain damage were all serious possibilities.
They cut open his scalp that Tuesday. The doctors worked for nine hours before stitching him back up.
And then the bad news: Not only was the tumor malignant, but Kevin's physician realized they simply hadn't gotten it all. Because of the location of the remaining mass, the second surgery would be even more dangerous.
Kevin didn't care.
"I was very adamant about a course of action," he says. "Get it the hell out of me!"
So on Thursday, Kevin went back to surgery. They opened him up, again. And for another five hours, they painstakingly worked to remove the rest of the tumor.
It was a rough time. Kevin floated in and out of consciousness. "Is this real?" he'd ask. "Is this really happening?" At one point, he was in such terrible pain, he was convinced that a crown of barbed wire was pressing into his skull.
The worst news of all came a few days later. The tumor wasn't just cancerous. It was also a particularly lethal type, and it was in an advanced stage.
It was almost surely fatal.
Not surprisingly, the good news was lost in the face of that. After the second surgery, Kevin's physicians were satisfied that the cancer was gone, at least for now. And they'd done such a good job with the delicate area that he had full muscle control. No paralysis!
His old personality was back, almost instantly. Suddenly, he was funny again.
"He came out of the surgery, and he started joking," Tashi says, amazed.
But the story was far from over. Kevin would have to have six weeks of radiation and chemotherapy. And, after that, he'd be given maintenance doses of chemo, in pill form, for the next year.
In the long term, the prognosis was not good. Statistically, he was almost certain to die within two years. His best chance — their best chance — was to keep undergoing chemo. If they could keep the CAT scans clear for a full year, his chances improved significantly.
Before Kevin began his radiation and the rounds of chemo, he and Tashi spent four weeks together. They wanted him to gain weight, to be strong enough to take the poison.
Kevin and Tashi also wanted time together before Kevin's ordeal began. They'd unwittingly endured so much in the past year — didn't they deserve a break before leaving the frying pan for the fire?
During that time, the couple decided to freeze Kevin's sperm. Even though it clearly wasn't a good time to have a baby — and maybe it never would be a good time — they could at least leave the option open.
The sperm bank wanted $715 to store a shot of sperm for one year. They didn't have it, Kevin recalls. With a little bit of begging, Tashi got a "cancer patient discount" — $350 for a shot.
But they didn't even have that.
Tashi had taken the previous three weeks off work. And Kevin, of course, hadn't lasted two days on the auto glass job before becoming a full-time cancer patient. They'd had to ask their family for support just to keep the lights on.
So they swallowed their pride and turned to their friends. "It's hard to say, 'Can you spare $10 so Kevin can whack off in a cup and have kids?'" Tashi says, grimacing. But their friends were happy to help. They had the money in a week.
That left only one problem: Getting to the sperm bank.
Kevin wasn't allowed to drive, and Tashi had been scheduled to work during the appointed hour. They could hardly push back the appointment — chemo was beginning the next week.
Kevin was forced to hitch a ride with his mother-in-law.